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The Letter from Albert Einstein to President Franklin D. Roosevelt
 
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Albert Einstein
The Atomic Bomb
With the 1938 discovery of nuclear fission, Germany had a two-year head start on developing nuclear energy; the Americans' fear was that the Nazis would shape it into a weapon of mass destruction. Germany also had in its grasp two materials critical to its development -- heavy water and uranium. They were available in abundance only in Norway and Czechoslovakia, both under Nazi control. 

In August 1939, Leo Szilard and fellow Hungarian physicists Eugene Wigner and Edward Teller urged Albert Einstein to sign a letter they had drafted for President Roosevelt. Einstein's letter noted that the work of Fermi and Szilard "leads me to expect that the element uranium may be turned into a new and important source of energy in the near future." President Roosevelt responded by appointing an Advisory Committee on Uranium. The Office of Scientific Research and Development was established on June 28, 1941, under the direction of Vannevar Bush, to develop atomic energy. 

On December 6, the day before the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Roosevelt authorized the Manhattan Engineering District. This letter from Albert Einstein to President Franklin D. Roosevelt led to the Manhattan Engineering District, also known as "the Manhattan Project," a national crash program racing to develop atomic weapons before Nazi Germany. The Manhattan Project was the seed that grew into the modern national laboratory system, which today includes many non-weapons-research laboratories, such as Argonne. 


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